A PROFESSIONAL golfer accused of stealing more than £50,000 from a historic club told a court he simply got his maths wrong.

Steven Hunter was Head Pro at Royal Winchester Golf Club in Hampshire - where membership fees are £1,300 a year - when he allegedly under-declared the money paid by visitors to play the course and kept the difference for himself.

Jurors heard he was caught out after club staff discovered 'consistent' discrepancies, totalling more than £45,000 over a period of almost two years. Many of the months were underreported by about £2,000.

But Hunter told the court he was 'totally shocked' when the club confronted him about this, saying he must have made a mistake by adding the numbers up 'in a rush' and had not done this deliberately.

READ MORE: Golf pro accused of stealing £10k from Royal Winchester Golf Club

An investigation also discovered more than £11,000 in profit from two charity golf days went into Hunter's bank account and less than £50 was given to the charity, it was alleged.

Hunter explained he had to finance the charity days himself, and the money was used to cover costs of staff and prizes for amateur participants.

The 54-year-old married Scot is also charged with three further counts of fraud, relating to him not paying tax on some of his earnings and lying about his annual salary to fraudulently obtain a remortgage of his £1.6million home.

Hunter told Salisbury Crown Court he was surprised when the issue with the green fees was revealed in July 2018.

"I was totally shocked because I didn't realise that there had been an error," he said.

"I fully cooperated and if there was any money owed to the golf club they would be paid.

"I thought the columns hadn't been added up properly... The running totals hadn't been added up properly so the total was wrong."

He denied intentionally underreporting the green fees to make a profit, but said he had not been able to go back through all the records between 2016 and 2018.

Tom Nicholson, prosecuting, said: "You built up a considerable amount of trust over the years at the golf club. They trusted you, they respected you.

"You abused that trust by taking advantage of weak checks and balances in their system.

"You were squeezing as much money as you could out of your business and putting it in your personal account... You were bleeding the company dry.

"These interlocking frauds were fundamentally about greed... You wanted to live beyond your means.

"You must have known you were adding up the months [green fees] wrong, every month."

Asked how he could explain the underreporting of green fees, Hunter said: "I have no idea, it was a long time ago, but no it wasn't about exploiting a weakness.

"I did it in a rush and I asked them to double check it."

The court heard when Les Day, a long-standing member of the club, died in February 2014 Hunter began organising a Pro-Am tournament in his memory.

He said: "It came from myself, in memory of Les. I was trying to get the golf club back on the professional tour map. We had a Pro-Am years before but due to some bad behaviour from some professionals the club didn't want them back.

"I thought it would be a good idea with Les's death to bring it back. We wanted to secure it and make it the biggest event in the county."

Hunter explained he transferred money from the account set up for the tournament into his own account to cover costs of organising the event, cash flow and for payments to suppliers, as he had to finance the Pro-Am himself.

Asked why he advertised it as a charity event in aid of Canine Partners, he said: "I wanted to make some awareness of it because it was quite an unknown charity. We had collection boxes on the tee boxes to collect money for it."

The court heard a profit of £11,141 was made from the 2017 and 2018 events which allegedly should have been paid to the charity. However the only money paid to the charity was £47.75, which was made from a coin collection at the 2017 event.

Hunter said he did make profit from the items he bought as prizes for tournaments in 2017 and 2018.

The court heard Hunter paid for items like golf clubs, bags and headcovers at discounted prices from suppliers like Mizuno, Titleist and Footjoy and would then recoup the money, adding a small margin, from the Les Day Memorial fund.

He said he still 'passed on the discount', but charged what he would have charged had he sold the items in his shop.

Regarding the fraud charges in relation to unpaid tax, Hunter said he did not do his own books and admitted to being 'not very good' when it came to record keeping but denied doing this deliberately.

He added: "I was so busy doing so many things I just wasn't as efficient as I could [have been]."

The court previously heard details of an older allegation, where Hunter is said to have claimed he was earning £205,000 a year so he could afford to remortgage his £1.6million home in Shawford near Winchester.

He told the court he had signed a blank document and his accountants had filled in the rest of the information, including his annual income, but he had not read any of the documents.

The court heard he bought the six-bedroom semi-detached property in 2002 and remortgaged it in 2006 to get an extra £145,000 to cover the debts from one of his other golf businesses which had to shut down.

Mr Nicholson said he lied about his income on the mortgage application in order to obtain this remortgage, but Hunter replied: "[My accountants] did everything. I can show you how to hit a ball round a field but I let them do all that."

Hunter, who now lives in Abbots Worthy, near Winchester, denies five counts of fraud.

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